In this virtual interview with Funmi Ogundare, a student of Talentfield Academy, Nasarawa, Kate Ene David, who won the MTN mPulse Spelling Bee competition to emerge as MTN’s one-day chief executive officer, explained why she is choosing to conquer the world of vocabulary to achieve the feat
When news broke on November 26, 2022, that a 15-year-old student would be leading MTN, many Nigerians were eager to know how she could achieve such a feat.
Many people expressed astonishment in the comment section of the post on MTN Nigeria’s Instagram page announcing Kate Ene David’s achievement.
Kate Ene, MTN Nigeria’s CEO for a day on February 1, 2023, is not your average 15-year-old. She is an ambitious teenager with multiple prizes on her shelf, from participating in spelling bee competitions to increasing and brushing up her vocabulary knowledge. These perks are great for the scholar who hails from Itabono in Owukpa district in Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State, but they are not her driving force.
When THISDAY spoke to her over a Zoom call with her father, Mr David Ene, who had enthusiastically rushed down from an important outing to meet the scheduled time for the interview, she seemed relaxed over the phone.
Picking her words carefully while answering more eloquently than you would expect a 15-year-old to respond, Kate took this reporter down memory lane of how she found love for vocabulary, using clear, concise words and speaking with a world of knowledge.
Born into a family of nine that cherishes and embodies academic excellence, she said, “My father, Mr Abah David, is an educationist who runs his own school, Talentfield Academy in Nasarawa State, while my elder brother is also a super speller who holds an O-level certificate and is currently seeking admission to study Computer Science.”
Her family’s academic excellence and discipline have influenced her to start participating in spelling competitions from her time in Junior Secondary School (JSS).
Kate said she officially started representing her school in competitions in JSS2 and started developing her spelling skills in primary school by watching her elder brother prepare for these competitions.
“My elder brother is a spelling bee champion himself. I would say he ignited my passion for the spelling bee because I usually assist him in calling out the words for him to practice their spelling. In doing that, I also developed more interest in the competition myself,” she told THISDAY.
Considering the fact that her father is an educationist, it is no surprise that he has dedicated his time to leading his children toward academic excellence.
“My father deserves the accolades. He pays for any competition that comes to his knowledge and also provides the necessary study materials. Even at home, he helps manage my time to encourage me to study for every competition I enrol for. He is diligent and believes in excellence,” the student explained.
For five years, with the help of her family, she has been competing, winning some and losing some as she sought knowledge, but not until the MTN Mpulse competition in 2022 left a significant influence on her life. As she not only won a ₦2.5 million scholarship grant, a laptop, a smartphone, and an MTN goody bag, but she also became the first female CEO of MTN Nigeria. Even if it was for a day, not many people could say they have achieved such a feat.
“I am excited. I didn’t imagine myself being the CEO at such a young age. So I would say that it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Being a CEO of a large organisation at such a young age is something that is very exciting,” she added.
She added that before the competition, her school had spent six hours assisting her with teaching resources on spelling and grammar to put her through, which helped her win the competition.
On what she plans to study in the future, Kate said, “Biology claims that organisms evolved, while spirituality, the Bible to be specific, says life came by God. These are things that I have always sought after their answers.”
MTN mPulse was a step towards achieving this goal, as she noted that she decided to apply for the competition because she desired a scholarship.
But the student did not only get a scholarship, she got the knowledge and used her opportunity to help needy students.
“With the help of MTN, I launched the mPulse education data bundles for students, a bundle that comes with 250MB to 4GB. The 250MB is viable for one week, while the 4MB works for 30 days. It is a discounted offer for students and young people,” she disclosed. “The educational bundles are really for children who do not really have access to quality educational materials, this is going to assist them in their academic work because they pay little for a large amount of data bonuses, and with this, they could learn more. I believe that any student who is willing to improve in their academics would benefit from this.”
Kate described the initiative as a direct interpretation of what she claimed to have learnt from MTN’s CEO, Karl Toriola, saying, “I was amazed at how well he handled his affairs and how he had time to mentor teenagers like her even with the great position he held. Learnt from him that whatever you are doing, you should have time for humanity; that’s what he displayed that day.”
She revealed that she had not passed through any major challenges while preparing for the MTN mPulse competition apart from the need to study rigorously,
She noted that the process had prepared her for her future plans as she plans to take online UI/UX designing courses while preparing for her forthcoming transitory exams to the university.